While Hawaii’s economy is picking up steam, the state’s unemployment rate has not returned to its pre-recession levels.
The state’s unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in July, unchanged from June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday.
Prior to the economic meltdown that began in 2008, Hawaii had logged three years of unemployment below 3 percent. Hawaii’s jobless rate has been 6 percent or higher since January 2009.
Hawaii’s economy is recovering. However, the state’s jobless level likely will remain relatively high in the near future, said Leroy Laney, an economics professor at Hawaii Pacific University.
"It will be a while before we get to the 2.5 (percent jobless) level that we had not so very long ago," he said.
But, Laney added, "We are emerging. It’s encouraging that tourism is beginning to show signs of life and lead us out of the recession."
The state is forecasting stronger economic growth in the coming months. The outlook for visitor arrivals, visitor spending, personal income and job growth significantly improved in the last three months, according to an updated forecast released this week by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Meanwhile, the size of Hawaii’s labor force, which includes both employed and unemployed workers, fell by 1,700 to 634,700 in July. The number of unemployed edged down by 100 to 40,300.
The fact that the work force is shrinking while the unemployment rate is holding steady indicates that some discouraged job hunters may have dropped out of the labor force and are no longer being counted among the officially unemployed.
Hawaii’s unemployment rate was the sixth lowest in the country, ahead of Kansas at 6.5 percent and behind Vermont at 6 percent.
Hawaii was one of 18 states that had no change in the jobless rate in July. Another 18 states and the District of Columbia reported decreases in their unemployment rates, while 14 states registered increases, according to the BLS.
Nationwide the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.5 percent in July.
Unemployment fell in 18 states and Washington, D.C., in July, while it increased in 14 states and stayed the same in 18, including Hawaii, the federal government said yesterday. That’s a slowdown from the previous three months, when more than 30 states reported drops.
Massachusetts and New York both reported strong job growth. Massachusetts added 19,200 private-sector jobs, the largest monthly gain in 20 years.
Manufacturers added jobs in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. But economists warned that it might not last unless consumers ramp up their spending.